Professional Love

Feb 15, 2023

Guest Post by Abbie Moore

Happy Valentine's Day! We absolutely love celebrating valentine's day at Scallywags, as we get to celebrate and share LOVE!

At Scallywags, we love all of our families and staff very much! With that in mind, I thought we would ask for your thoughts and feedback to reflect on the feeling of love in Early Years.  

        Please feel free to answer our quesntionnaire through the link below, your feedback is very much appreciated


The term ‘professional love’ was coined by Dr Jools Page, who conducted a research project in 2012, talking to Early Years professionals across England, to research the impact of media coverage around scandals on the relationships with children and early years professionals.

The research aimed to understand how professionals felt about ‘loving’ children in a professional capacity.

I’ve seen many debates over the years about where the line is drawn when it comes to the love and affection, which we show the children in our care. One of the most discussed questions on this topic is how staff should respond when a child says, ‘I love you’.

Should the word love be used between early years practitioners and children and ultimately, should practitioners tell a child ‘I love you too’???

It’s a grey area, with so many perspectives both from early years practitioners themselves and from parents and families.


As professionals in the sector, we understand the importance of strong attachments to key caregivers, and the EYFS reminds us that attachments shape a child’s social world and underpins children’s personal development.

Knowing that attachments with caregivers are so essential to a child’s holistic development, confidence, and sense of self, we may ask if love is part of this attachment process?  Is it ok to express these feelings as love?


The challenge faced by many is how to effectively and professionally convey the affectionate, loving, and caring behaviours needed in the role of key person.

As we come to reflect on professional love, we would like to ask our parents to decide on the boundaries and definitions of professional love.


Dr Page described professional love as a reciprocal relationship which some practitioners might establish with babies and young children. It’s impossible to love a child in the way a parent would, and professional love doesn’t seek to build that type of bond. Professional love shown by an early year’s professional, should complement the relationship a child has with their parents or carer.

Many other settings have a ‘Cuddle Policy’ or a “no touch” Policy, which means that they cannot hug or comfort the children through physical touch which can appear to be rather harsh. As the black eyed peas would say... Where is the love?


We all need a cuddle no matter what age we are. Human touch is fundamental for our wellbeing.

We need the touch of a smile, verbal affection and eye contact too with the people we can trust. Affective interaction is necessary for the healthy, cognitive, social and emotional development of every human being.

This natural warm physical response to another human being causes a biochemical release of the hormone, oxytocin.  When this hormone enters the bloodstream we feel good: it lowers the levels of stress; reduces blood pressure, improves mood, increases tolerance for pain and may even help the body to heal more quickly. 

The first thing that our practitioner thought of and referred to when reflecting upon 'professional love' is the hands-on nature of caring for young children. Children need warm, loving interactions and intimate care and many children will want to hold our hands or cuddle up for a story. 




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